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Here is my review of the Diamond Princess Mexican Riveria cruise 4/23 - 4/30/05.
This was my 12th cruise and my 6th with Princess which earned my Platinum status. I have also cruised on Celebrity, RCCL, Carnival and Premier. I am 43 and am pretty laid back and easy to please (most of the time!)
Embarkation - Princess still does it better than anyone else. Carnival, Celebrity and RCCL need to take lessons from Princess on organization and speed. Arrived at the port about 11:30 and was on the ship by 12:15. Princess does call Platinum and Elite passengers to board first, then followed by those in wheelchairs or those who need assistance, then they start general boarding by numbers (you are handed a plastic card with a number on it before you even get to the check in area.)
The Ship - while I agree the Diamond is a beautiful ship, I do feel she was a little too big for my taste. The layout was easy to follow (I never got lost). I loved the fact that there were five pools and two of them (the Terrace and Lotus pools) were adult only. I didn't like the layout of the Lotus pool - it is set in the middle of the Lotus Spa and there is limited access to it. Plus, the tile flooring in that area gets very hot under the sun. I much preferred the layout of that pool on the Island Princess where it was covered and there was a lot of room around the pool and it was not in the middle of the spa. There are five dining rooms on board: Sterlings, Vivaldi, Pacific Moon, Santa Fe and the International. The first four are the anytime dining rooms. The International is tucked away and can only be accessed by the aft elevators and stairwell. There is very little room for diners to wait before the doors are opened. Sabatini's is located on the Promenade deck between the photo gallery and the internet cafe. Two places I loved on this ship were Club Fusion (where the Vista Lounge used to be) and the Wake View Bar - this bar can only be accessed via a stairway located next to the dance floor in Club Fusion. It is a small area that is great to sit and talk. Too bad it is so isolated from the rest of the ship.
The Cabin - I was in Aloha 740 the last inside cabin aft. I loved the location of the cabin, but I would not book it again. This cabin was very noisy - not just creaking which I expected, but there was the sound of water running through pipes and rattling pipe noises off and on throughout the night. I eventually did break down and buy some ear plugs which did help me sleep. Because the cabin was aft, I did feel a lot of rocking and motion - which to be honest, I really like. Plenty of storage space and the typical tiny shower and bathroom.
Food - I thought the food was very good. There were a couple of dishes that were outstanding (the always available fettucine alfredo, the chilled soups, and some of the appetizers) and the rest were just ok. I know there are variables from ship to ship within a cruise line because of the head chef's personal preferences, but comparing the food on this cruise to my last two Princess cruises (Dawn and Island) I felt it had gone down a notch. The buffet is just that - the buffet. Good buffet food but the layout is very confusing to me - even after 6 Princess cruises - especially on the Diamond because they had people entering from both ends of the buffet line! And when the two lines meet, it is pure chaos.
Service - this is where I have some concerns where Princess is headed. Maybe it was just this cruise at this particular time, but I have never heard so many passengers bluntly told "NO" for simple requests. Could it be it was the last cruise of the season to the Mexican Riveria and the crew were a little burned out? I do know many crew were scheduled to end their contracts in the next two weeks. For example, one person asked their room steward for an extra blanket, because she was cold at night and the bedspread was too heavy for her to use as the extra blanket and she was told "No - we have no extra, turn the thermostat up." I had requested before boarding through my TA and requested again once on board to have the foam overlay placed on my bed - I was told, sorry we have none (which I know is a lie as others stated they had one on their beds." Someone at dinner asked for a particular salad dressing (not an unusual one) and was bluntly told "we don't have that tonight." I have noticed some cutbacks in little things (for example bar snacks automatically being brought to you when the bar waiter comes to take your order.) I was told by one of the officers in the food and beverage department that all one had to do was ask for the bar snacks and you would be brought some. Every single time during the week when I asked for them, I was bluntly told "No, we don't have any" or I was told "I will see if we have some" and the waiter never came back with any even after a second and third request. I did bring this to the attention of the officer I had previously spoken to and told him exactly where and when this happened, and it still wasn't resolved. I finally gave up. Also, bar service at every venue except Outriggers was extremely slow - it sometimes took up to 15 minutes during a slow period to get a bar waiter to take an order and then another 10 minutes to get the drink. And this was not during peak times. In the onboard boutiques there were long lines to check out - I know that in the boutiques they were training new crew, so I did cut them some slack, but it was still frustrating. I have never had this problem on Princess before.
The true stars of the crew as far as I was concerned were my dining room wait staff and my room steward - absolutely spot on and always accomodating (except for the foam mattress overlay, but......)
It may sound like I didn't have a good time, I did! I got to relax and rejuvenate and made some wonderful friends, but I have to rank it as the least favorite of all my Princess cruises. I have decided that I like the size of the Island/Coral Princess best - they are better laid out and easier to get around than the Diamond. I didn't get that special feeling on the Diamond like I have on my other cruises. I would recommend the Diamond to those who like bigger and newer ships - me, I'll take the mid sized ships!
Any questions, please ask!